Cadillac made a bold move over ten years ago when they introduced the first CTS-V model to take on the Europeans that dominated the high-performance sport sedan segment. The recipe for that first CTS-V was pretty simple – stuff the V8 engine from the C5 Corvette into the engine bay, tighten up the suspension and bolt on bigger brakes. That first CTS-V was very fast, but it failed to bring all of its elements together in a cohesive package. Thankfully, Cadillac has remained committed to improving their V-Series models over the last decade, and racing them has contributed significantly to their evolution. Cadillac still sells the CTS-V today, but has also dropped in a new model with the smaller, lighter and less expensive ATS-V.
Unlike the CTS-V, which uses the same supercharged 6.2-liter V8 engine as the Corvette Z06, the ATS-V is powered by a 3.6-liter turbocharged V6, a first for a V-Series. It’s a potent unit, putting out an impressive 464hp and 445 lb-ft of torque – which gets the 3,800-lb ATS-V to 60mph in 3.9 seconds. To supplement the ample power, Cadillac has fitted the ATS-V with Brembo brakes, stiffened up the suspension and fitted sticky Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires. Handling is also improved with Cadillacs Magnetic Ride Control, which can adjust to road conditions at a rate of up to 1,000 times per second, as well as an electronically controlled limited-slip differential. Buyers of the ATS-V can choose between coupe or sedan, as well as six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmissions.
Our test car, which was priced at $78,905, was fitted with several options that enhance performance, including the $5,000 carbon fiber package that includes a front splitter, hood vents and rockers, as well as a rear diffuser and rear spoiler. Cadillac says the hood vents are functional, not only improving airflow to get rid of hot air under the hood but also reducing air pressure under the hood, while the aero bits reduce drag and lift. Inside, our car was fitted with optional Recaro seats ($2,300) a Performance Data Recorder ($1,300) and an Alcantara-covered steering wheel and shift lever ($300). Our car also had the automatic transmission ($2,000) which had paddle shifters and rev matching on downshifts.
The ATS-V certainly makes for an imposing presence on the street with its red paint and carbon fiber pieces, though it certainly wouldn’t draw as much attention if it was painted a more neutral color like white or black. The ATS-V is an attractive car from a design perspective, though it does look a little awkward from certain angles, most notably from the side, where its rear flanks look a little too bulky. Inside, the driving position is spot on but the steering wheel could stand to be a bit smaller and the shift paddles a little larger. I’m also not a fan of the shiny black plastic used on the center console and steering wheel. On the plus side, the ATS-V gives the high-performance driver all the information they could possibly want, with everything from tire pressures and engine boost to oil pressure and temperature and just about everything in between.
From behind the wheel, the ATS-V is a well-rounded sport sedan. Engine power is pretty linear with no spikes in power from the turbo boost and the automatic transmission is well-matched to the engine, though it’s not as responsive as the dual-clutch transmissions that some of its rivals have. The ATS-V is fun to drive on a twisty road, with good steering feel. There’s a bit of understeer on turn-in and you can certainly feel the weight of the car (at 3,800 lbs., the ATS-V weighs around 200 lbs. more than the BMW M4, which itself is no lightweight), but overall it’s well balanced and predictable. The Recaro seats are surprisingly soft for being Recaro’s, but have good lateral support for more aggressive driving. My time in the car included a drive from New Jersey to Maryland, and the ATS-V was also comfortable for long drives on the interstate. At 6’5”, one issue I did have is that headroom was tight and my head would sometimes bump against the edge of the sunroof when going over rougher roads.
Overall, the ATS-V is just about on par with its rivals from Mercedes, Audi and BMW; though I wouldn’t say Cadillac is 100% there yet. It may not have the ultimate polish of its German rivals, but the Cadillac is unabashedly American, and it’s great to see Cadillac building a sport sedan that performs at such a high level. Meanwhile, in the Pirelli World Challenge GT class, the ATS-V.R. GT3 is competing head-to-head against cars like the McLaren 650S GT3, Porsche 911 GT3 R and Audi R8 LMS GT3. With three rounds left to go this season, the pair of Caddy’s driven by Michael Cooper and Johnny O’Connell have 14 podium finishes in the GT class, including wins at Circuit of the Americas, Barber Motorsports Park and Mid-Ohio. Cooper and O’Connell sit third and fourth in the GT driver points, while Cadillac is second in the team championship. For more information on the ATS-V, visit www.cadillac.com.
|Engine||Twin-turbo 3.6-liter V6|
|Power||464hp @ 5,850 rpm|
|Torque||445 lb-ft @ 3,500 rpm|
|Transmission||6-speed manual or 8-speed automatic|
|Suspension||Front: MacPherson independent with Magnetic Ride Control|
Rear: Independent five-link with Magnetic Ride Control
|Brakes||Brembo 6-piston front, 4-piston rear fixed caliper, vented rotors|
|Fuel economy||16 city, 24 highway|
|Curb weight||3,812 lbs.|